In hindsight, I’m glad that I wasn’t in with the rest of the congregation to listen to Danny’s message this morning. This week was my week to help out with the kids in Sunday school, so that’s where I was. If you ever need a good exercise, just hang out with eight seven-year-olds at a playground. One will say to you, “I don’t think you can catch me,” and will want you to chase them. You’ll probably say no because you’re not in that great of shape, but then there’ll be another rambunctious little person to challenge you. This time, though, it’s you being chased and whether you want to or not, you have to either start running or sit there and get dog-piled on. Your choice. I chose to run and that’s why I’m about to fall asleep though I’ve had two cups of coffee and it’s only 7:30. And though I had a lot of fun with the kids, that’s not the whole reason why I’m glad I wasn’t amongst the rest of the congregation.
Today’s message was about judgment and Danny pulled from Matthew 7:1-5ish. I didn’t get to listen to it until I got home from lunch and I’m really thankful for this because it might have been embarrassing for me had I listened from my usual seat. Why? Because of the many aphorisms of Jesus that Danny has taught from in these last few months, today’s was the most convicting. Had I been there in the second or third row of the mid-left section, I would have been squirming like crazy.
Judgment is a careful action for us Jesus freaks. As Danny taught, we’re required to judge between right and wrong actions, but we aren’t supposed to go so far as to condemn others in a hypocritical manner. We aren’t supposed to condemn someone for the speck in their eye when we’ve got a log in our own.
As I read over Jesus’ words and listened to Danny’s commentary, I began to think of the many areas where I overlook my own log. When my roommates don’t do their dishes, when they don’t clean up their mess in the kitchen/bathroom/living room, or when they take long showers that use all the hot water. Or when someone tells me what to believe in, when someone arrogantly boasts about their talents, or when I hear someone gossip about a friend. You see, though we claim to know and love a perfect God, we are not perfect ourselves. We’re not above our fellow humans in any way and to even think so would be to walk around with a plank sticking out of our eye socket.
The most interesting thing about Danny’s message, the most encouraging thing as well, was the placement of priorities with the teachings of Scripture. He said that yeah, we are supposed to judge our actions and determine false teachers. But above everything else, we’re supposed to listen to and follow Jesus’ words. If we take Jesus’ teaching of not judging others first, then our perspective on everything else becomes much gentler, much more compassionate, and much more honest.
As I sat there in my room listening to the tough message about judging, I realized just how far I am and have been from the standard of God’s kingdom. Just in the realm of judging others alone, I’ve distanced myself from the ways of Jesus, from the Way He wants us to live. Yeah I may think that I’m doing alright, that I’m walking in the ways of the Lord better than some other people, but that’s because I’m evaluating myself the wrong way. I think we all, at times, have the strong tendency to compare ourselves to each other instead of comparing ourselves to Jesus. When this happens, we do exactly what I’ve been doing: we judge others for the very same things we do.
It makes you wonder what kind of things Jesus will say to us when we have to give an account for the lives we lived. I look at my very severe and critical nature and realize that I’ll be as severely and critically judged. The curse words I’ve used, the dishes I haven’t cleaned, the laziness that I’ve given in to, the arrogant things I’ve said, and the gossip I’ve spread will all be revealed when I stand before God. I won’t be able to hide in my room behind my laptop screen like I did today. And it’ll be even worse than squirming in my usual seat. But just as I get overwhelmed with guilt, I remember the promises of Jesus and the reason He died where He did.
He didn’t carry His cross just so that we could tell others how righteous we are; He didn’t take the three nails so that we could adorn ourselves with religious pretentions; and He certainly didn’t die so that we could determine who enters the Kingdom and who doesn’t. He died so that we might choose to live a fully repentant life, not just a partial one. What Danny’s words revealed to me this afternoon was just how impartial I have been in my repentant life. I’ve got a pretty good religious routine down pact; I show up, sing a few songs, nod in agreement to whatever Danny says, maybe say a few “Amen’s” during the message, shake his hand as I walk out, and leave for some lunch. The next day I’m back to knocking other people out with the plank sticking out of my eye.
A fully repentant life, a life completely and totally turned over to Jesus’ carpenter hands, demands that plank be removed. We cannot serve ourselves and serve God at the same time; we either give Him all of who we are or we give Him nothing. We have the choice. And though the lives we live now are very comfortable, they aren’t what they could be. Yes that means that we have to check ourselves constantly before passing judgment or gossiping about the people we don’t like. But with as hard as the life Jesus called us to live may be, it’s worth it.